Supercapacitors as a technology changing the automotive and electric-power industries

10.06.2021

Today, many businesses are switching to the concept of sustainable development and introducing technologies that enable them to achieve greater productivity while lowering costs. Possible solutions include systems based on supercapacitors. Sergey Ageev, General Director of TEEMP (a part of ROTEC Industrial Holding) as a developer and manufacturer of solutions in the field of energy storage units based on supercapacitors, told us about the benefits and effects of the technology.

Energy sources disappoint people quite often both in everyday life and in business. For example, car drivers have to look for a warm shelter for their cars when it’s freezing in order to be able to get the engine started in the morning since the car battery may fail at low temperatures. Production facilities, in their turn, are subject to voltage surges or power outages that cause financial costs. Nowadays, however, all these problems can be solved by using systems based on a pulse power source, or a supercapacitor.

What is the essence of a pulse power source?

A supercapacitor is an electrochemical device that allows a large amount of energy to be released instantly even at extreme temperatures.

The principal difference between a supercapacitor and a capacitor, its predecessor, lies in their power capacities: the power capacity of the latter is much less. Whereas, the voltage in supercapacitors is constantly increasing. Thus, for example, modern devices are charged with an organic electrolyte, which increases the voltage in the cell that may soon reach up to 3.2 V (currently, the standard value is 2.8–3 V) and hence increase the amount of stored energy.

Supercapacitors have a number of advantages over other power sources:
A great number of charge-discharge cycles: it may be more than 1 million.
High capacities: the devices can be operated under circumstances where it is required to instantly deliver peak-point currents without having a negative effect on the energy source.
Broad temperature range: the standard value ranges from -45°C to +60°C, but it may be higher (for example, supercapacitors by TEEMP can be operated within the temperature range from -60°C to +85°C).

What are supercapacitors intended for?

Today, supercapacitors are in considerable demand worldwide and used in a wide range of industries. The greatest extent of introduction is in the transportation and electric-power industries. Supercapacitors are used for two purposes.

Maintaining trouble-free operation

Supercapacitor-based systems are able to provide the required power when needed, for example, when the primary power sources are “out of whack” (voltage dips and drops) or malfunction for a short period of time (actuation of the relay protection, dead time in the course of ATS operation, etc.). Let’s consider several examples:

At enterprises. Power supply failures are costly for manufacturers: the equipment has to be rebooted or reconnected. In addition to time losses, there are also financial costs to which enterprises with a continuous process cycle are especially sensitive. The production process stops instantly, and consequently, all the products within the cycle are wasted. Such a sore point was faced by UC Rusal, a manufacturer of primary aluminum and alumina, which suffered a total loss of RUB 39 million due to actuation of the relay protection and ATS operation (current “silence” for 1–2 seconds) at three plants.

A supercapacitor is able to protect equipment from voltage surges. The latter is an urgent problem for modern equipment that is extremely sensitive to power fluctuations. Despite the fact that GOST allows deviations to fluctuate up to 10%, devices fail quite often already at 5% volatility.

In cars. Any car owner knows perfectly well that the battery may fail at sub-zero temperatures. The increase in internal resistance simply does not let the necessary energy to be released to start the car, but this task can be handled by a supercapacitor that operates at -40°C and even -50°C. A similar problem is also common for extremely hot areas and may be solved by using supercapacitors as well. A pulse power source is able to resist high temperatures: moreover, some models exceed the standard range of +60°C and reach up to +85°C. In general, supercapacitors are often used in the automotive industry as an energy buffer. They insure the battery in case the latter cannot withstand heavy loads. That is precisely why a pulse power source is installed in domestic patrol vehicles with high energy consumption or powerful cars like the Lamborghini.

Saving more expensive energy resources

A supercapacitor facilitates the saving of energy resources in the transportation industry due to the recuperation system. It works as follows: the pulse power source accumulates braking energy and thereafter uses it to accelerate. Thus, fuel consumption is reduced, along with the emission of greenhouse gases. The fuel saving amounts to almost 10 l per 100 km.

The braking energy recuperation is applied in various types of transport, including public transportation. For example, China let hybrid buses out onto the streets of Shanghai, and Huai’in has an electric street car that recovers 85% of the energy generated when braking. Manufacturers of private cars, such as Citroen and Peugeot, frequently use a pulse power source in Stop-Start systems that shut the engine off at a full stop and then quickly start it. According to the study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the technology helps to save 8% of fuel in heavy traffic jams.

What does the future hold for the supercapacitor market?

The global supercapacitor market is set to reach $720 million by 2025. It is expected to grow by an average of 12% annually and increase by almost $300 million as compared to 2019. The emerging Russian market is still relatively small and, according to our estimates, amounts to approximately $13–14 million, or about 3% of the global one. That is why TEEMP aims to actively enter the international market, in particular, in June this year, we were awarded the “Russian Business Guide. Exporter of the Year 2021” for the supply to South Korea of supercapacitor cells with our in-house design. In general, it can be noted that the market of the countries in Southeast Asia is one of the most promising and fastest growing.

In the context of industries, the automotive industry will become the key driver of growth due to the prevalence of electric vehicles. However, the pulse power source could also find active application at enterprises in the chemical, pharmaceutical, food processing and oil and gas industries.

Source: Power and Industry in Russia